Plant Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Laboratory
PERAL scientists analyze the pest risks associated with the import and export of plant products in order to facilitate safe trade.
New Pest Advisory Group (NPAG)
This unit constitutes one of APHIS' first lines of defense against invasive species when they are first reported on the U.S. mainland or territories. NPAG assesses new and imminent pest introductions into the United States. NPAG evaluates dozens of pests each year and makes recommendations to PPQ management regarding appropriate agency responses to exotic plant pests including arthropods, mollusks, pathogens, and weeds. (Contact Ron Sequeira)
Exotic Pest Information Collection and Analysis (EPICA)
EPICA provides PPQ programs with early warning of exotic plant pest events through weekly e-mail reports, allowing recipients to identify emerging pest threats before they reach the United States and to respond in an appropriate and timely manner. Through a unique combination of technology and human expertise, EPICA achieves a wide, systematic, and efficient coverage of open-source plant health information, which it then analyzes and communicates within a PPQ-relevant context. In addition, EPICA actively supports further integration of biosurveillance efforts into a comprehensive safeguarding strategy for PPQ.
Global Pest and Disease Database (GPDD)
The GPDD is a secure electronic repository of scientific information about potentially invasive pests of concern to U.S. agriculture. This database is maintained and operated by the National Science Foundation's Center for Integrated Pest Management. CPHST provides oversight and input on the content and direction of the database. Compiled data is brought together from public and secure electronic sources, primary literature, expert correspondence, and internal APHIS documents. Currently there is information on more than 2,300 pests. Over 1,700 clients use the system, including risk assessors, program managers, port inspectors, and state survey coordinators. New linkages and content from APHIS projects continue to be added. For example, new tools for risk assessors and advanced search queries are in progress.
Data Archival and Reporting Tool (DART).
CPHST is developing a Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) data archival system within the Global Pest and Disease Database (GPDD). The tangible products so far include the ability to conduct "country x commodity" queries to identify pest species contained in the GPDD. This ability enables a risk analyst to generate a "first guess" pest list at the touch of a button. In the future, queries will be further customized add pest data from past risk analyses. Tools in development include a query to compare pest's risk ratings between different PRAs and analytical techniques to predict probability of pest establishment and host range expansions.
Micronesian Pathway Risk Analysis and Biosecurity Plan
CPHST is participating in a risk analysis cooperation of unprecedented scale, working with groups in APHIS Veterinary Services, Wildlife Services, and PPQ Plant Health Programs to produce a) an assessment of the risks to animal and plant health in the Micronesian Region expected as a result of a planned military build-up on Guam, and b) to develop a biosecurity plan for mitigating identified risks. CPHST is playing a leadership role in this cooperation. The APHIS team is also coordinating with the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Geological Survey. The project was requested by the U.S. Department of Defense to provide information required for an Environmental Impact Statement. (Contact Ron Sequeira)
Trade Support - Risk Assessments for Fruits and Vegetables.
CPHST risk analysis staff are responsible for scientific documentation in support of trade decisions regarding the importation of commodities. Risk analysts prepare pest risk assessments, identify potential mitigations, and review pest risk assessments prepared by other countries and/or their contractors. Staff members also identify and develop improvements in the pest risk assessment and risk management process.
Risk Analysis Support for US agriculture exports .
This aspect of risk analysis is designed to provide support to export opportunities that are blocked by technical barriers. A dedicated staff works to prepare Export Risk Analysis Products, which is focused on pest lists of arthropods and plant pathogens associated with various commodities for export to foreign countries. This work has resulted in market access for dozens of new commodities and protected markets of other commodities worth billons of dollars.
Plants for Propagation (Q-37) Analyses and Regulatory Overhaul
APHIS is undertaking a major initiative to revise and update 7 CFR 319.37, the quarantine that regulates the import of plants for planting. Currently, all plants for planting that are not specifically prohibited are enterable. PERAL is assisting the regulatory process through the development of methodologies and analyses to support the Agency's decision-making processes associated with the evaluation of pest risk prior to authorizing the entry of propagative material into the United States.
Regulatory Science Curriculum
The scientific foundations for phytosanitary systems are taught through cooperative agreements between CPHST and NC State University, Univ. of Florida, Florida A&M Univ., Univ. of Kentucky and Virginia Tech. The cooperative initiative includes a Minor in Plant Biosecurity and Regulatory Science. The CPHST-taught classes within the Minor have already provided the organization with a professionally trained workforce that enters the Agency with a good understanding of PPQ's mission and activities. CPHST scientists also engage in cooperative online courses (international standards and risk management) as part of a second regulatory curriculum program at Michigan State University.
Risk Analysis Mentoring Program
CPHST PERAL's doors are open to risk analysts from other countries. Visitors typically stay for 2-3 weeks and work on a Pest Risk Analysis document of their choosing. Assistance and mentoring is provided by our risk analysts. In the last few years PERAL has hosted scientists from Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Madagascar, Uruguay, Japan, Vietnam, Senegal, Zambia, Jamaica, Honduras, Thailand, Chile and Peru.
Development of a Predictive Weed Screening Model
As part of the Q-37 regulations overhaul, CPHST is developing a screening tool to identify plants that are likely to be weedy or invasive in the United States. This tool or weed risk assessment considers not only biological traits such as reproduction and dispersal, but also impacts to agricultural, natural, and anthropogenic systems, and history of invasiveness elsewhere in the world. CPHST is testing different models with a set of U.S. species with known invasive behavior to determine which models are most accurate. In the future, staff will incorporate a procedure into the screening process that will help us evaluate the consequences of uncertainty on the outcome of the screening procedure for any given plant.
IPPC and NAPPO
CPHST scientists provide scientific expertise to the IPPC and NAPPO by participating in international working groups to draft new international and regional standards for phytosanitary measures (ISPMs and RSPMs). The topics covered in the expert working groups include pest risk analysis (PRA) for weeds, PRA for plants for planting, PRA for Asian gypsy moth and topics related to risk management for fruit flies to name a few. CPHST supports APHIS standards development by providing technical and scientific review and comments on draft standards and by suggesting new topics for standards that would be beneficial to the agency. Over the past 5 years, CPHST has coordinated a multidisciplinary team of scientists from across PPQ that has provided substantial reviews of draft standards.
Phytosanitary Alert System
CPHST PERAL scientists manage and maintain the website for the Phytosanitary Alert System (PAS) Panel, which provides current information on pest situations of significance to North America. The official pest reports on the website serve as the official communication for the country of origin and fulfill the obligations of the IPPC Standard on Pest Reporting (ISPM No. 17). During 2009/10, PERAL scientists have posted official pest reports for the United States concerning new detections of pests including the European grapevine moth, European oak borer, spotted wing drosophila, and cotton seed bug as well as the removal and expansion of quarantine areas for various other regulated pests. Pest alerts regarding pests of potential concern to North America were also developed and posted. (Contact Ron Sequeira)
Country plant pest risk ratings
A team at PERAL is developing, for the first time, plant-risk based ratings for individual countries. These rankings will be used by Customs and Border Protection to improve agriculture inspections at ports-of-entry. Previous country ratings were based exclusively on animal pest risks. Rankings will be developed for the cargo, maritime, and air passenger pathways. The ranking value will depend on the number of high-risk plant pests in particular countries and the volume of trade or traffic from those countries.
Airline passenger flight risk ratings
PPQ developed a model for assigning risk ratings to passengers on particular airline flights. The model uses AQIM (Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Monitoring) data to estimate the rate of quarantine materials (QM) per flight (approach rate), which are weighted by the type of QM found. The product of the weighted approach rate and passenger volume estimates the number of annual QM per flight. These values can be ranked for enhanced targeting of riskier flights, and reducing inspections on flights with less risk. The ratings apply to more than 25 large U.S. airports (e.g., Miami, JFK). PPQ is providing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with these rankings, as well as enhanced targeting information for several of the top-ranked flights at each airport. (Contact Ron Sequeira)
Broad Risk Analysis
The concept of broad risk analysis is being advanced as an optimization tool. The intent is to ensure that economies of scale are investigated as complex risk analysis products are engaged. This approach is appropriate when multiple requests for importation can benefit from pooled resources. The categories for broad risk analyses include: 1. Taxonomic generalization: A risk analysis requested for one commodity is broadened by developing a risk analysis for an appropriate taxon (e.g., an entire genus). 2. Geographic generalization: A risk analysis requested for one country is generalized for an entire region when a region shares common pests, a common ecology and climate, or other natural geographic or environmental feature. 3. Generalization due to production conditions: A risk analysis requested for a given country is generalized to a larger geographic region if the conditions for production are common. 4. Generalization due to management: Risk analyses is broadened for a given commodity when the key management option is common (e.g., irradiation) across different countries. 5. Generalization due to executive priorities: Risk analysis is conducted for a given region that is the focus of an executive mandate. (Contact Ron Sequeira)
Trade Support - Risk Assessments for Controversial or OMB-Significant Rules
RPA staff is responsible for leading the development of scientific documentation in support of controversial or significant rules related to trade in plants and plant products. This includes the following documentation types: risk assessments, risk management analyses, briefings for legal counsel and OGC, development of response to comments as part of rulemaking, review of rules for scientific accuracy. Since 2003, issues such as Mexican avocados, Argentine citrus, Spanish clementines, Hawaiian orchids and many other rules have survived challenges due to the credibility and robustness of the scientific backstopping provided by the RPA team. Additionally, when there are Presidential priorities or priorities identified by USDA executives, RPA takes the lead in providing timely analysis products in support of these initiatives. Recent examples have been linked to support trade agreements and other initiatives in the NAFTA region, Japan, Colombia, India, the EU, sub-Saharan Africa, and others. (Contact Ron Sequeira)
Climate Change Initiative
CPHST scientists are leading a PPQ team to analyze climate change as it impacts APHIS PPQ regulatory programs, and are developing a framework that describes PPQ plans for managing invasive species under global climate change scenarios. Additionally, CPHST is leveraging partnerships with universities to seek extramural funding to address key elements of the regulatory climate change framework. In cooperation with the National Science Foundation's Center for Integrated Pest Management at NC State University, PPQ plans to develop an epidemiological forecasting system that integrates climate change scenarios into PPQ response programs for invasive plant pests. (Contact Ron Sequeira)